American military history began with the establishment of the Virginia colonial militia in the seventeenth century. Although ill-trained, it was the colony’s only defense against Indian attacks and invasion by hostile powers. The records left are fragmentary and scattered, and it has always been hard to locate them and make them accessible.
With the publication of this work that problem is now behind us. From research based on county court minutes and orders, bounty land applications and warrants, records of courts martial, county militia rosters, Hening’s Statutes at Large, the Draper manuscripts, and manuscripts in the Public Record Office in London, we now have an authoritative register of Virginia’s colonial soldiers. And it is not merely a dry catalogue of names and dates, for included are the military’s “size” rolls which routinely give the soldier’s place of birth, age, residence, occupation, and physical description. And sometimes this was made even more informative when the enlisting officer recorded his impressions of the soldier!
Little is known of the ordinary people of colonial Virginia for they left no diaries or journals, but now we have the rare privilege of coming almost face to face with them in this remarkable book.